Exposed: file-sharing lawyers collect fines using 'dormant' company

An exclusive PC Pro investigation reveals file-sharing fines are being collected under the name of another firm

Nicole Kobie Barry Collins
19 Jan 2011

Controversial legal firm ACS Law is discreetly using another company to collect payments from alleged file-sharers.

ACS Law has long acted on behalf of copyright holders, demanding hundreds of pounds from people accused of file-sharing or threatening them with the prospect of court action.

The law firm is currently being investigated by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, following accusations by consumer watchdog Which? that it had “bullied” people into making payments for infringements that they didn’t commit.

ACS Law was in court earlier this week, attempting to have 27 cases of alleged file-sharing dropped.

However, the judge refused to drop all but one of the cases, giving the legal teams of the defendants the chance to fight for punitive damages from rights holder MediaCAT – which has accused the defendants of illegally downloading pornographic films.

Our client has instructed agents, GCB Limited, to correspond with you directly... in place of ACS Law solicitors

However, it has now emerged that ACS Law has been sending out letters to alleged file-sharers since the middle of December, requesting that out-of-court settlements of £475 are sent to another company, called GCB Limited.

“In order to allow us to focus on the issuing of proceedings, our client has instructed agents, GCB Limited, to correspond with you directly in relation to the above [file-sharing] matter in place of ACS Law solicitors,” the letter states.

The letter lists GCB’s registered office as that of Kent-based chartered accountants McLean Reid, who claim they have nothing to do with GCB.

A statement on the McLean website reads: “GCB Limited was formed by us and appears to be being misused by some third party. We are taking urgent steps to ensure that our name is not in any way abused in this connection.”

When PC Pro spoke to McLean Reid partner John Champion, he told us that GCB had been registered at that address on behalf of one his clients, David Fisher.

Champion said that Fisher had lent his dormant company to an associate, who had been collecting the file-sharing money without his knowledge. “He just decided to help a friend out,” Champion said. “He wanted a dormant company, and he said ‘Oh I’ve got one that’s not doing anything, you can have that’.”

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